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Weblog Cartoon

No, I do not have a television at my country house. But I thought this was pretty good and telling nonetheless.

cartoon from www.weblogcartoons.com

Cartoon by Dave Walker. Find more cartoons you can freely re-use on your blog at We Blog Cartoons.

Writing Regularly

Since I started my other weblog, Open Source Love, I’ve been writing about four posts a week on it. (I don’t write that often here.) I don’t know that they are all of the highest quality but they are there and I am writing.
The original premise is that love is a universal constant with the human race, like natural law—really I think love is natural law. I am trying to get across the idea that we all know about love, to one degree or another, and that we all value it and try to apply it to our lives in whatever ways we feel we can.
I have been talking about various blocks and hindrances to love and the fact that we all struggle with these hindrances.
Here are some of the posts:
Love is First
Love: the Kernel of Natural Law
When Does Love Stop Loving?

And here’s the flagship post:
And Open Sourced Operating System for Humanity
So bookmark, syndicate it or put it in your networking system and watch this space.
Any pertinent feedback is welcome.

The Truth You Know You Know

This post is way overdue. I first met Ken Rideout several years ago and have loved him ever since.

Karyn, Ken, RalphKen spent many years learning about and learning to love the people of Thailand. He says, when asked, his calling is a teacher of God’s love. He learned to connect with folks who have no idea of Western culture or Biblical authority by appealing to their sense of natural law, or the law of karma. In this way, with non-judgmental love and personal approach, he led teams that helped change people’s lives individually and collectively.

Then, two or three years ago a heavenly match was made between Ken and the Henleys, Ralph and Karyn. Together they finished and published Ken’s book The Truth You Know You Know. This is a book aimed at Christians interested in learning how to share faith with others in different cultures, and in our pluralistic culture right here and now.

I was blessed to receive the Henley’s hospitality on more than one occasion, interacting with Ken about these lessons and others. [Those were good times. Thanks, Karyn and Ralph.]

One of Ken’s sayings is that the gospel of Jesus Christ is “self-validating,” which means that it rings true quite naturally in the hearts of persons, even though they might never have heard anything about it before. People take it in and accept it because it fits.

Here’s the web site: Ken Rideout: The Truth You Know You Know

Now for the rest of the story. While Karyn Henley was “sitting at his feet” as she says about the time she worked with Ken preparing the book for publication, she managed to internalize the teaching so well she decided, with Ken’s support, to write a second book putting forth the same ideas, but in a form more suited to youth (Karyn’s main readership).

Here’s the book on Karyn’s site.

Here’s the amazon link: Love Trumps Karma, Uncovering the Truth You Know You Know

Open Source Love

I have jumped into the blogger pool and have made a new weblog called Open Source Love. It’s about the universality of love, the basis of natural law and all law, for that matter. Really love the is the root of all life on earth, the best thing—really the only thing.

I want to develop an interactive site. I already have the name, but first I will ruminate by blogging in the blogging pool and seeing if I get any feedback.

Here it is: Open Source Love

Rootabaga Country

A couple years ago I decided to type up the Carl Sandburg’s Rootabaga Stories and put them on my web site. Dad had read some of them to us when we were kids so I had a place in my heart for them. It took a while but I got most of it done then left it for a year or more. They’re great. They have stuff about kids who are allowed to name themselves, a railroad that runs off into the sky, a place where they make clowns and bake them in ovens. There are musicians, little girls, uncles and uncles’ uncles. There are blue foxes and flongboos, not to mention corn fairies and shadow animals.

After a while I began to notice (from my logs) people were finding them. I followed some of the refer links back and came to the conclusion there is a revival of interest in the stories. Baked clowns drying out in the Rootabaga CountryThen a couple weeks ago I noticed a refer link in my log from the wikipedia article on Carl Sandburg. Wow! I thought, “I’ve been wikipedia’ed.”

So I got busy and finished them up.

Here they are.

Then I thought, what they hey … I don’t want to go half-hog with the thing, so I bought rootabaga.net and put up the world’s first Rootabaga Country social networking web site.

Here’s the Rootabaga Community site.

Just so’s you’ll know—the book was published in 1922—it’s in the public domain. My motivations are not totally altruistic, nor totally self-agrandizing. I think I might put advertising on one day and get a little income maybe.

Me as PowerPoint volunteer

I do Power Point for the worship service at church. I got Randy to snap my picture. It was Sunday service on Christmas Eve day of 2006.

Joe PowerPoint Christmas Eve

No Snow

It’s January in Tennessee and no snow! See:

nosnow-jan18-2007

A Christmas Classic (or not?)

Saturday afternoon, day before Christmas Eve, I watched a Christmas classic movie that wasn’t so classic. I was flipping around the high-numbered channels and the first thing that caught my attention was the familiar cast of colorization. I didn’t tune in at the very beginning, but I think I was pretty close. Where I came in Jimmy Durante was on the sidewalk talking to an old vaudeville buddy and commisserating about the hard times. No money, no place to go, almost Christmas. The poor fellow had been evicted from his place of abode. And so this provides the segue for the first really weak point of the movie. The Jimmy Durante character was a chiseler and a cheat.

He had his wife and daughter right there and he pummelled the poor old fellow with questions about the apartment, looking for a place they could move into for free. “How much is the rent?” ($32) and “How long did you manage to stay there on one month’s rent?” (6 months). So Jimmy set his face toward this promised land, they all picked up their luggage and set off.

It’s quite a plot with lots of high points. Some of them quite fetching, some not so. I’m not going to tell the whole thing. Here is a pretty nice review with all the salient points of the plot. Go there, you should really read it.

Now back to me—I’m kind of surprised I had not seen the film before, but not too surprised. After all, it had certain shortcomings. The Jimmy Durante character did not have the high morals of George Bailey (Jimmy Stewart in “It’s a Wonderful Life”). George was hard-working and honest but this guy was lazy and a conman. He was everything that respectable folks abhor.

Wait a minute. That’s just like the characters we are. We should love this movie.

“A Christmas Wish” was made in 1950, the year after I was born. And I confess—I did love it. It was campy, it was too complicated, it was ethically uncomfortable. But I loved it. I will be watching for it next year on the high-numbered channels on the day before Christmas Eve.

Purity

Purity is concerned with touching in love, not refraining from touch.

Camus’ Stranger and Me

A few months ago I picked up the Stranger by Albert Camus. I had heard of him and the book so I wanted to see how the book was. I was somewhat prepared because of course I knew it was about the alienation of people from one another. But I was not well enough prepared.

The story was somewhat perplexing—mainly because many of the characters and occurences plus the thoughts of the main character were contrived. His apathy was just too much. I couldn’t believe a real person could be so apathetic. It seemed to me the author was writing more of a fable than a novel. He wanted to convey apathy and alienation so strongly that he would sacrifice any semblance to real humanity.

I suppose the only part of the story that approached a semblance of reality was at the end when the condemned man turned from apathy to hatred. I felt he was full of hatred throughout his whole life but it was only admitted at the end.

Was this Camus’ tool to make the thing more poignant? Maybe so.

But really I was left with the feeling Camus was saying the man was not responsible for his apathy or hatred because of everything that was put on him from the outside—by society.

It seemed like the reader was supposed to draw the conclusion the man didn’t deserve to die for his apathetic, almost involuntary crime. But my feeling was the man (and many real people besides) had committed murder many times before—inwardly if not outwardly. He did not love or care for human life, never did, and behaved accordingly.

As Seriously as Our Shredded Dignity Demands, Part Three

For me the habit of rising late in the morning, turning on the television and sitting there ‘bone idle’ is just about the guiltiest-feeling things one could do. According to my anxious conscience, non-industriousness is one of the most shameful sins. Mind you, I’m not saying my conscience helps me be more industrious—it doesn’t. I’m just not driven in fact by the puritanical work ethic. That is, I am not driven to get out and get money six days a week. I do not wrack my brain trying to figure out ways to get other peoples’ money and get it into my bank account. Sometimes I wish I had more of that in my system.

But no, I usually just do the work that finds me. And it does usually find me. I am blessed to be on the first-call list at Measurement, Inc. We don’t work all the time, five or six months out of the year at the most. When they call I go. I work hard for them.

Then when the test-scoring season is over it seems like someone will usually call me to do some remodeling work. It’s not my favorite thing to do but I’m thankful to be asked and I always try to do a good job and not waste their money.

And so this year when the test-scoring season was over we were told there would be no more projects till February of next year. We asked again and were told sympathetically, there are absolutely no more projects in the pipeline for this year. And so I went home, deposited my last paycheck and paid as many bills with it as I could.

After that the bills started to pile up. I get a good feeling from paying living expenses with money I worked for. But if there is no money then there is no good feeling; just the opposite, there is anxiety.

Now, you are probably thinking, ‘where is your faith, Joe?’ And you very well should be thinking that because it is a pertinent question. But do me a favor and don’t be so quick on the draw, will you? I believe God is taking care of us but I don’t believe He guarantees to “show us the money” every time.

And so, on the morning of September 18 when I watched a movie on TV instead of attempting to do some work that might (possibly) bring me some income, I found the last thing I expected—a message from God. There is nothing like a message from God to fill one with a sense of meaning.

When I sense meaning I want to write. In this case the Dallas Willard writing was on deck in my mind so, here’s that last paragraph of the three:

Our hunger for significance is a signal of who we are and why we are here, and it also is the basis of humanity’s enduring response to Jesus. For he always takes individual human beings as seriously as their shredded dignity demands, and he has the resources to carry through with his high estimate of them.

And so, when it comes to our sense of significance, we are not satiated and never will be in this life—not by a long shot. For most of us and for most of our lives we will have to be satisfied with the hunger alone. But there is a greatness just in the hungering after a thing that comes from God.

For the significance, the meaning, the life, the love that comes from God is an eternal thing, and a heavenly thing. It is a substance that has to do with God’s kingdom. And hunger in the kingdom of God is like no other kind of hunger. For in the hunger is the food. And with God always—to hunger is to be filled.

As Seriously as Our Shredded Dignity Demands, Part Two

The next paragraph from Dallas Willard’s The Divine Conspiracy:

Unlike egotism, the drive to significance is a simple extension of the creative impulse of God that gave us being. It is not filtered through self-consciousness any more than is our lunge to catch a package falling from someone’s hand. It is outwardly directed to the good to be done. We were built to count, as water is made to run downhill. We are placed in a specific context to count in ways no one else does. That is our destiny.

Even more hope. I love this. It underscores the reconciliation that I already believe in but do not always feel the effects of.

I have been hungering mightily for a sense of significance. My faith says it is there but my day to day existence claims it is not. Whether we are overworked or underworked we are susceptible to the gremlin of meaninglessness. We reach out and try to connect. We look to our friends, pastors, family members, trying to see in their faces a positive reflection of ourselves that will show us we have meaning. Meaning, or significance, is even more important than health, comfort, financial security. I have found myself saying again and again, I can weather the hard times as long as I can see meaning in them. But I need to see meaning in my life as a whole. I need my life story to be meaningful. Maybe part of the trouble is I can’t see the big picture; all I can see, hear, smell, taste and feel are the particular things that are right in front of me at any one time.

And so I rise and fall with the wind and waves. If I’m in a depression I can’t see the horizon—I can’t even see any hope in the morning for the afternoon. Sometimes I even feel guilty longing for significance, like it were one of those idols I must lay on the altar of God. But Dr. Willard’s words refute that feeling of guilt for me. He reminds me that I was created for meaning, for signicance, in order to do good in my immediate vicinity as well as in the world at large. So I am supposed to look for significance. My friend Dave Durham said just last Sunday that seeking the kingdom of God is the same as looking for the kingdom. We look for the kingdom around us and we see it. In the same way we look for significance and see it in the love that flows from God—the love that makes good everything in creation.

Now the best part of this middle paragraph (the metaphorical cherry on this “word sundae”, if you will), is the personal ID in the last part. We each have a “specific context” in which God has made us, and we each have a particular flavor to our life that no one else has, or ever will have. For me this is like a hand on my shoulder blessing me, letting me know in no uncertain terms that life is worth living for me, even for the ne’er-do-well, ne’er-’er-gonna-do-well melancholic me.

So why did I even mention (in the previous entry) the film “The Girl in the Cafe”? Because it is a parable of meaning coming out of circumstances that had no apparent meaning and, for a person like me (or like you), that is well worth noting.

As Seriously as Our Shredded Dignity Demands, Part One

This morning after checking my email and my ebay I sat down in front of the television with coffee and got pulled in by a British movie about a socially backward government functionary and a quiet younger lady with whom he was attempting to socialize. After a couple of quiet dates with her he invites her to go to Reykyavik with him to a conference he had to attend. After all he had a second ticket he wasn’t using. It turned out to be a lot more than he bargained for. By being herself, a plain young woman with a particular story, the lady ended up changing her shy friend and history to boot. They have the movie rotating on HBO right now. The Girl in the Cafe with Richard Nighy and Kelly MacDonald. It was a quiet and sometimes awkward movie, no big moments, no chase scenes, but I liked it. It meant something beyond itself to me. That’s what we need from a film, isn’t it after all?

So after the credits started to roll I checked mail again and there was my good friend Rob F. answering my sad, sad message of 36 hours ago. He was wanting to find practical ways he can help me grasp the hope I need for the future. I am thankful for such a friend as he. I’ll call him and let him know I am coming to myself. And I am. After about six weeks of unemployment and depression. Six weeks of waking up every morning to thoughts of “where am I going to get money for the bills.” Six weeks of coffee, oatmeal, peanut butter and bologna (not together). Six weeks of fooling with web stuff (for donations). I sold a few books on ebay (more trouble than it’s worth), I called in all my IOUs, which weren’t many. I fiddled with a couple old laptops that were donated to me, cleansing them of the too-sluggish Windows 98 and experimenting at installing linux distros. I learned a lot, and when I went to sell them I learned that people don’t really want to buy a laptop with a linux OS. Oh well – which brings me what I really want to say.
A couple nights ago, while I was watching and waiting the three and a half hours it would take to install the afore-mentioned linux operating system on an old off-brand (but aesthetically beautiful) laptop, I looked for a book to read in the gaps between the steps in the install process. The book I found was The Divine Conspiracy by Dallas Willard. I had read it (from the library) before, and afterwards found a used copy at a second-hand store. I let it set a while but finally picked it up again. When I began to read I had to think, this is great stuff, did I really read this before? I don’t remember it being this good. Then I came to a passage that touched me so deeply I had to get a pencil and mark it. Then I read the next and had to bracket that, then the next. I ended up with three paragraphs, each bracketed separately. Here’s the first:

Egotism is pathological self-obsession, a reaction to anxiety about whether one really does count. It is a form of acute self-consciousness and can be prevented and healed only by the experience of being adequately loved. It is, indeed, a desperate response to frustration of the need we all have to count for something and be held to be irreplaceable, without price.

Now I must say I would not have marked this paragraph about “pathological self-obsession” except for the fact that it ended so well, even beautifully. For me the beauty hit me with the word “healed” because healing is exactly what I (and many people I love) need.

Now, turning back to the first sentence, I didn’t think of myself as egotistical or self-obsessed, but when it comes to being healed by being adequately loved – well, I might come pretty close to pleading on that. Like Charles Colson, who pleaded guilty to the Watergate conspiracy – not because he did that particular crime, but because he had done other crimes of equal value and wanted to submit to justice, I feel a pull to submit to justice. Not out of a desire to be punished but out of a desire to be healed. What am I guilty of?

I am addicted to loving the inside of the walls of my own soul more than the living creatures who surround me every single day. I hug those walls and the images that I have projected on them – fantastic and phantasmal images with no real substance – fancy words for my persistent semi-belief that nobody loves me, everybody hates me. And if that’s not self-obsession I don’t know what is.

Then to close the paragraph, Dr. Willard goes on about our need, the unfulfillment of which sorrows us all, to be meaningfully, even infinitely, valued. Go back and read the blockquote above. It is almost poetic. I can’t explain it or expound upon it satisfactorily; I am writing about it just to show that it has touched me for the good.

By the way, about that cute little laptop, FedoraCore was too ponderous for the thing. I ended up formatting and installing another free linux distro, this time achieving operational equilibrium with the fast and light VectorLinux.

My next post will be about Dallas Willard’s next paragraph which I bracketed in pencil.

The Omnipotent Co-Worker

We all have co-workers; we have many kinds of co-working relationships. Some of our work relationships are supposed to be egalitarian, most are not nonetheless. Co-working has many ramifications; not all of us are good at it. Remember the scores we got on our report cards for “Works well with others”? I don’t remember what my scoress were; I was always concerned with my “regular subjects.”

Now, we believers have a Co-Worker who is omnipotent and we are in a whole new league.

How does one work with the Omnipotent? Søren Kierkegaard said it well—”in blessedness and terror.” It’s not easy to partner with the Omnipotent, it’s hard enough to partner with a near-equal. But God is omnipotent and we are able to do nothing at all.

But we find that almost impossible to live with. There is such a lot riding on the thing—our standing in the community, for instance. No one likes to think he is going to be shown out to be the incompetent—the lazy one—the one who cannot pull one’s own weight. I know I don’t like being the person who cannot interface successfully with the business world, but whether I like it or not I am that person. Mind you, I am very good at doing quite a few things—but I am not capable of turning those skills into money. It’s just not in my character.

I run out of money and the bills pile up. Then, after struggling with guilt and shame and fighting with myself about whether I should beg donations for my volunteer web work, I finally go ahead and beg and feel bad for asking for a love-gift. When I stop and think I recollect all the things I did out of love for my web people. I put my passion into their web sites and hoped they would not think I was doing it for gain, and I wasn’t … or was I? I was really doing it to gain their love, to hoodwink them into loving me if I may be so frank. Ha. And I was doing it all without regard for my omnipotent Co-Worker, or without much regard. Doing God’s work without noticing Him. If I thought of Him at all it was a fast and fleeting thought, because I am good at fixing up web sites and I am good at fixing them fast. I love doing that and I love having people say, “Joe sure knows a lot about web stuff.”

And so, I am an example of a person—as most of us are—who is not good at working well with others, particularly our Omnipotent Other. We think we are good alone, or no-good alone—but alone nonetheless. Because we forgot we have an omnipotent Co-Worker.

Kierkegaard went on to say, “if he is your co-worker, you are able to do everything.” And so, there is a paradox to add to our body of paradox that is the Christian life.

God is omnipotent. We are powerless.
God is our Co-Worker. We are empowered.

It’s a hard road but we must walk it out. We have to bear it in mind one hundred percent of the time. We must never let it slip away … but we do. And when it slips away, not only do we get off-balance, but we begin to imagine we are alone; He is nowhere to be found. It’s a falsehood but then we would often rather believe falsehoods.

We have to go down spiralling, tailspinning, grasping at our phantom ripcords. We have to get confused—can’t see which way is up, in order to right ourselves.

God is omnipotent, but not seen. None of our kin have seen Him. But somehow or another we know—we must believe that He is the only One can surrender to. And so we do.

Be Careful Where You Leave Your Used Domain Names

I wanted to make a sister site to my Spririt of Prayer web site so I tried to buy the name spiritoflove. Well it was not available in the dot com, dot net, and dot everythingelse except dot ws. WS is supposed to signify “web site”. So I bought that. I put the site up on that name and developed it somewhat. I did some graphics and put some essays I wrote along with some public domain texts that I like about, what else, the Spirit of Love. Eventually I decided that was one of the names I would give up (partially an economy decision). Besides I never did warm up to the ws family of domains. I felt it was a second-class citizen sort of domain. Plus, well … just try to pronounce it.

I moved the material from the site into Spirit of Prayer and let the name expire. I had owned it for two or three years, I think. I changed the link on my web sites … well, all but one page that I forgot. And there’s the didactic lesson for you. Learn from my mistake. I left it on my “Donation Page.” That’s the page where I put the best face on my web volunteer work, the free work I do for good causes here and abroad. Then recently, I did something I do once in a blue moon. I sent an email asking some friends if they wanted to help by donating to this poor web guy. I gave them the link in my email. Then, as an afterthought, I checked the links on the donation page. The links to the sites I keep up for the Kingdom of God and the good of humankind, and I found that my old name, unused by me but still on the page, currently transports me smack dab into the middle of the world of cyber-nudism galore, pictures and all. Someone had snatched up my used domain and is using it in the cause of something completely different than I did. Touting the benefits of various nudist resorts. Don’t go there.

Well, doncha know I pulled up my ftp client and whipped that little bugger out of there lickety-split. So, be careful where you leave your used domains laying around. Preferably pick names you want to keep a while, then keep them.

It’s a bully pulpit, the web, isn’t it?

Resurrection Lilies 2006

I love my resurrection lilies. We got three bunches this year. This is two bunches together. We would have had another bunch but I accidentally mowed it down with the lawn mower while it was still real short. We have only had these at this house for two seasons after moving them from our East Nashville house.

lilies2006c-500px.jpg

If you don’t know how they grow then I’ll tell you. They come up in the early, early spring as a clump of long green leaves, much like iris leaves, but they die down in a few weeks and you forget where they were. Then around July the flowers shoot up on long stems and you remember about them. Another name is surprise lilies because after dying back they surprise you when they shoot up.

The Beautiful Dead

Every week, every night almost, the crime scene dramas seduce us with images of the beautiful dead. It’s always a lovely young woman, dressed in a party dress which, before the scene ends, must be stripped off, albeit gently by actors and actresses who skillfully play the parts of forensic scientists—roles which combine the great ideals of wisdom and justice.

Tonight the New York team found a lovely young woman floating in the harbor in a mermaid gown. The writers knew that would strike a chord with the viewers. It did with me. It was the vulnerability of restricted movement, combined with the self-exploitative desperation of the character being portrayed. And when they got her into the examination lab they used camera shots that emphasized the beauty of her youthful face, the femininity of her person and the humanity of her departed soul. It was a real work of art, accompanied by skillfully created music meant to loft us up into the ethereal chambers of higher consciousness. The sense of loss was powerful.

The image of the beautiful dead is an old one. We see it in the tombs of Egypt and in the poetry of Greece. We hear it in old Irish ballads. It is beautiful and sad. And we want to touch it.

Or do we? In reality the actress on the morgue table was alive. They made her up and dressed her and paid her to lie still. I wonder what dead roles pay, the same as live roles, do you think? The girl was shown alive in a few short scenes, I will admit. But they were fuzzy and dreamlike, showing the action obliquely as she was being strangled, but that was not so memorable. The important and meaningful scenes were the dead ones.

Why do we want to dwell on these images? In order to draw ourselves close to the dread and loss we feel is always at hand? Or to stay one step ahead of our grief, to fend it off? I don’t know.

But I do know if she were really dead it wouldn’t be beautiful. She is beautiful because she is alive, as we are alive. Her beauty touches the beauty in us and we feel akin. We don’t feel it with marble statues. That’s a very different sort of beauty—an aesthetic beauty. This is different. It’s more like lost love.

At the end of the story the lady investigator went to the jail to face the killer and ask him why he did it. He would not tell. He did not know.

And what about us? Do we have space enough in our hearts for her? Will we love her while she is still alive? Or will we fetishize her future, but certain beautiful death?